Liz Johnson here. This week I celebrated the release of Navy SEAL Security, the fourth book in my Men of Valor series about a team of Navy SEALs. I’ve been with these guys for almost five years, and I’m thrilled to have at least another couple to go. (I’m writing the next Men of Valor book right now.)
I got to thinking today about what it takes to become a SEAL. And I don’t mean just the physical stuff. Although that is crazy. This is the initial physical screening test trainees have to pass before they can enter BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training).
- 500-yard swim (breaststroke or sidestroke) in 12:30 (10 minutes to be competitive)
- 42 push ups in 2:00 (but most can do 79)
- 50 sit ups in 2:00 (but again, 79 is a better)
- 6 pull ups (you better have 11 in you if you want to compete)
- 1.5-mile run in boots and pants in 11:30
And lest you begin thinking you might have time to recover between those exertions, nope. Just ten minutes after the swim, two after the push ups and sit ups, and another ten minutes off before the run.
Do you think you could do it?
Let me be the first to say that I could NOT. I could probably do the 500-yard swim in about half an hour. And maybe half a push up (that would be the downward half, before falling flat on my face). And I wouldn’t get up.
But for the SEALs who pass this screening, it’s the first of hundreds of physical, mental, and emotional tests in the training process. Instructors thrive at making trainees as uncomfortable as possible. In his book Lone Survivor, retired SEAL Marcus Luttrell talks about how his instructors would call for the class to “get wet and sandy.” It was a directive to run into the frigid Pacific, get drenched, and then roll around in the sand. Then they’d have to run down the beach carrying a rubber boat over their heads.
I know you can’t see me, but even thinking about this is twisting my face into a terrible grimace. Can you imagine? I’ve had the displeasure of finding sand in unwanted places after a day at the beach. (Blech!) But to be coated in sand willingly? What makes someone sign up for weeks and weeks of that kind of torture?
That’s the question I start with when I begin fleshing out my SEAL heroes. What kind of personality could withstand (and even thrive) in BUD/S? What kind of man does it take to become one of the best/most highly trained warriors in the U.S. military?
I think it takes a never-say-die attitude, a loyal core, and a sacrificial heart. These men give up stability (often called away from family without any notice), safety (going into the scariest places on earth), and often peace. I’ve heard them called sin eaters–they handle the worst in the world so the innocent can be free. But that comes with the weight that those outside the brotherhood may never be able to comprehend. And the bond between the team members is stronger than brothers. It comes from trust and a certain knowledge that the man beside you cares more for you than he does himself.
While passing the physical tests is impressive, it’s these characteristics that keep me writing about SEALs.
And, of course, I love writing about heroines who go toe-to-toe with these guys. Women who throw a wrench into their SEAL’s life. I love writing feisty heroines who can handle whatever comes their way. They just learn they can do it better with a partner.
What about you? Do you think you could pass the SEAL physical screening test? Would you even want to try? What makes SEAL heroes most interesting to you as a reader?
About Navy SEAL Security: Wounded navy SEAL Luke Dunham’s only goal is returning to active duty…until he rescues his physical therapist from a lethal attack. Now he’ll risk everything—even his recovery—to keep Mandy Berg’s attacker at bay. Mandy’s been burned before when she trusted the wrong man. And she knows better than to develop feelings for one of her patients. Yet how can she help falling for a man who puts his strength, his skill and his very life on the line to keep her safe? Relying on anyone feels dangerous…but turning away Luke’s protection could be deadly.